— Craig Olienyk (@mr_meander) December 31, 2014
Tonight, as I walked in place of Mrs. Meander I decided to try to walk without instigating any thoughts, but merely observe the thoughts that my brain produced and let seep into conscious awareness.
I was astounded at the sheer bulk of random thought processes that continually stream forth from the recesses of the sub-conscious. On a dark and relatively stimuli-free walk, my brain produced thought processes including, but not limited to: relationships, travel, marriage, pain, loss, camping, building, racism, Michael Brown, excess, lack, childhood memories, decisions, money, exercise, and politics. And so it went, and so it goes.
As soon as I became aware of a thought process and dismissed it, resolving to walk with nothing but my sensory experience… well, the next thing I knew I had just spent several moments “thinking” about something else completely irrelevant to this present moment.
It caused me to pause and ponder, “How much of what we react to, what we think we really “think” about is actually just us noticing our subconscious processing a mire of previous thoughts and inputs? Are we really thinking original thoughts when we say things like, “Well I think…”? OR are we simply allowing our brains to regurgitate a conglomeration of past outside voices that we mistake for our own?
I have a challenge for myself and for you, wonderful reader: As you go about your day, notice yourself “thinking,” and perhaps ponder the content of those thoughts. Were they relevant to your immediate situation? Did they bring happiness? Did the instigate anxiety?
Could it be that the journey to mindful living is paved with an awareness that our passing “thoughts” are actually making us, and not the other way around? Perhaps catching brains in the act of thinking could be the ticket to a more peaceful existence.
Happy thinking, my fellow travelers…
Adalie walked with me today while my Love was away Christmas shopping. I watched in half-amusement, half-exasperation as she tried to master the art of the scooter. She would get going and then lose her footing, and then get going and lose direction, and then get going and panic because she was going too fast, and lose her courage. It made me think of all the mental and physical energy that goes into learning a new skill.
I have many friends right now who seem to be in transition. Newly divorced, newly parented, newly moved, newly reformed. As I walked, I noticed signs of change as well… a “for sale” sign in the yard, new construction in the back… life is forever changing. Some for the good, some for the bad, and really it is only our perception that categorizes them.
But as I walked, I thought not so much about the change. Whatever it may be, the decision is often easily, if not hastily, made.
It’s creating the new normal that exhausts a soul.
Becoming a family of three with the birth of a new baby, re-identifying as a “single” after being coupled for a decade, recreating a life after a big move or loss. We often look much like Adalie on that scooter… fumbling for direction, shaky at best, and just hoping the courage does not fail us.
But something else I’ve seen over and over in my life… resilience. As we rounded the corner, she took off. Still unsteady, but confident and free… hair wild in the breeze, smile on her face, and playful squealing at the top of her voice. The mama in me wanted to call after her, “Be careful!”
But I stopped myself, because life does not usually afford us that luxury, and her normal was coming along just fine…
Amidst the stress of the holiday season, take a moment to be still, feel the sensations in your body, and contemplate the brevity of life. Your perception of the immediate experience, for you, is all that really is. -Mr. Meander
Today was Winter Solstice. The shortest day and longest night of the year. Of course, there are many scientific reasons that today is what it is. But being humans, we have assigned it festivals and traditions, ceremonies and celebrations dating back and back and back. What I love about Winter Solstice is the opportunity to reflect…
I thought–as I made hot beef stew and gluten-free cornbread–about the hours I have spent in the kitchen this year. I love my kitchen, to me it represents nurturing. I cook and play here. I feed hungry bellies good, healthy food. I give life to the bones that live under my roof. Cooking has become such a powerful skill set with allergies and autoimmune deficiencies. I have seen the ability of food to bring illness or energy. I no longer underestimate the importance of food to our bodies. I have learned much this year in my kitchen.
I reflected as my daughter painted a bird house to help those little creatures through the winter. I thought of all the hours this year we have observed nature. How it never ceases to inspire awe. How it teaches me lesson after lesson when I tune in and listen. How it changes me, guides me, inspires me to be a better person. Every time I walk in to a quiet moment with nature, I never leave the same. I have learned much this year in the outdoors.
I laughed as we decorated crumbling sugar cookies. But even all falling apart, they were delicious with icing and sprinkles. And isn’t this the way of life? This year is probably one of the first in my life I didn’t have a “plan.” I ebbed and flowed with what came and went. It wasn’t always easy, but it was always beautiful. I have learned much this year in the everyday moments.
And I observed as we walked silently, except for the jingle of bells. A tradition started last year to teach my daughter how to walk quietly (you can’t be louder than the bells). I saw a
husband that loves me endlessly with no reservation. I saw a little girl wild blond hair flowing behind her, free spirit growing inside her.
The absolute basis, for me, to all life is my connection to others and these two are my foundation. I have learned so much this year from these relationships and so many others.
And as I sit here now, watching the glow of the Christmas tree and taking stock of my life. I realized something appalling… 2014 has been the best year of my life! In the past, I have always ended the year thinking, hoping, believing that next year “has to get better.”
For the first time that I can ever remember, I will end the year content with my life. While I am excited to see what 2015 holds, I am no longer desperate for it to change my world. I’m not sure if this is so much a reflection on my year or on myself, but either way–I’ll take it.
We decided to walk in silence tonight. It was dark and Christmas lights glowed. The silence felt like the blue lights on one of the first houses we walked by; muted but glowing.
Silence became my heart beat, my breath, my boots hitting concrete. It was silent giggles at pretending to ski downhill and screaming muscles at the trudge back uphill. Silence was the pressure of his hand in mine. The steadiness of his breathing beside me.
Tonight, silence felt like cold air on my cheeks. Barking dogs in the distance. The sound of wind in my ears.
We walked silently and carefully. It was mind clearing and beautiful. It was connection to both earth and Love. It was thoughts observed and let go. It was knotted anxiety I had been carrying for others, released.
Tonight, silence was the loudest I had ever heard it.
Today I again made no steps of my own, but I did observe many journeys of others.
The in-sync, out-of-sync rhythm of two young girls trying to figure out one of the biggest mysteries in life… how to get along.
The trudge of a down-trodden friend desperately searching for anything good in the universe and anything worthy in herself.
The march of a determined husband going to war with birdhouses (that he eventually won and did so brilliantly).
The tiptoe of the broken-hearted as she walked on eggshells with an ex-lover that is gone but not forgotten.
The dance of a lovely jazz singer with sparkles on her dress and a shine to her eyes as she bathed us in the sounds lovely Christmas carols.
I did a lot more sitting today than walking, but I sat with the journey and bore witness to others’ resilience. I was reminded today that the strong are beautiful in their weaknesses.
I was reminded today that we all have the choice to overcome or be overcome…
Today I did not walk in the literal sense of the word.
I mean I did walk Adalie into school. Then walk from one side to the other of the 45000 square feet building I work in, about six times, before noon.
I drove home after lunch. I stood and made 30 Grinch fruit kabobs. I drove to Adalie’s school. I walked, stood, and “Simon-said” my way through her Christmas party. I drove home again. I helped Adalie get ready for dance class. I danced and sang with my girl to the other end of town. I chatted, sat, and changed her shoes three times in the following hour-and-a-half. I changed Adalie in the car while driving back across town. I danced, observed, and bubbled popped at Adalie’s school Christmas dance. I drove her and a friend home for a sleepover. I delivered food, drinks, and a movie. I kissed, hugged, and watched them drift into dreamland. I finally laid down myself.
So no, I was not so much a mindful walker today. But I was a damn good mother. And while the day was hectic to say the least, I also recognize that these days are numbered.
I was mindful to enjoy my girl today…
Today was a much needed reprieve… it had been an emotionally stormy week thus far, both internally and externally.
Wednesday brought closure to that. It was a day of conflict avoided. Apologies expressed. Answers given.
It was internal pressure released. Body relaxed. Emotions stabilized.
It was a quiet evening. Games played. Early bedtime.
The only thing that never let up was the rain that fell all day. But even that was a reprieve for me. I did not walk today but I did finally feel stable, mindful, and with purpose again.
“You have to take an honest look at yourself. If you’re not okay with you then nothing will ever be enough. No girl, no amount of money, no job, no matter how far you run… your demons will chase you, your holes will consume you… and nothing will be enough to fill that void. You’ve got to look yourself in the face and do your own self work and decide you are okay with who you are, all by yourself. And when you have filled those holes, and wrestled those demons, and truly become the healthiest, most whole version of yourself– then everything becomes more than enough! Because it’s in addition to your wholeness rather than trying to make up your deficits. You can’t be truly happy until you are truly happy with you.” -Mrs. Meander
My advice to a very lost, very young soul today. And my advice to all hereafter…
As my Love and I walked the dogs this evening, I thought about my emotionally charged week so far. I thought about how I feel “a day late and a dollar short” these days. But I also thought about my present life and how I am the happiest I have ever been because I am the most authentic version of myself that I have ever allowed. And for today, I am me and that is enough.